On her third solo release, Seattle singer-songwriter and former Sufjan Stevens band mate Shannon Stephens delivers a creation that catapults from within. "I turned 35 and all of a sudden I didn't have the energy to give a shit what people thought about me anymore," said the singer recently, and this empowering break through drives Pull It Together, setting into play rich instrumentation, mature songwriting, and Stephens' most powerful voice yet.
With a crew of capable backing musicians including Jeff Fielder (Mark Lanegan, Isobel Campbell) on guitars, James McAlister (Sufjan Stevens, Pedro the Lion) on drums, Steve Moore (Sufjan Stevens, Laura Veirs) on keyboards, and a little help from labelmate DM Stith and Will Oldham, Stephens' serene vocals glide effortlessly through touching melodies like "Faces Like Ours," a duet with Will Oldham (who covers her song "I'll Be Glad" on his album Lie Down In The Light). There, the two trade off striking lyrics--"When you have white skin/nobody can send you away"--against measures of delicate piano, pedal steel, and sweetly resonant harmonies.
The album rings with a fearless and tender feeling throughout. "Cold November" is stirring with DM Stith's ethereal piano work and Stephens' graceful words of self-discovery; again on robust guitar anthem "Down The Drain And It's Gone," her bell-clear vocals project with such confidence they rival any modern pop diva. From Stephens' band mates to her personal, well-spun compositions, great instincts and well-adapted acoustic flourishes define Pull It Together and make it a deeply satisfying spin.